Chavis impressed by communication in improved secondary

When Tennessee began football practice last month, defensive coordinator John Chavis couldn't hide his excitement about the Vols' depth and experience in the secondary.

Heading into today's sixth practice, Tennessee's defensive backfield has lived up to the hype.

In Saturday's scrimmage, safety Demetrice Morley intercepted a pass, sure. More impressive, says fellow safety Eric Berry, is the way Tennessee's secondary communicated.

"It felt wonderful," Berry said. "Everyone knew what they were doing. We didn't keep any secrets. Everyone was letting each other know what was going on. We were making all the right checks, all the right calls. Experience just started kicking in."

Chavis agreed with that assessment.

"They know what they're doing," he said. "Coach (Larry) Slade's done a terrific job, and obviously there's some skill back there, some really good skill.

"I don't want to say it quite yet, but it could be some of the best skill we've had back there. And that makes it exciting. We'll see. We'll see how they keep progressing."

Tennessee could use some of the same up front.

Defensive tackle Dan Williams batted down a pair of passes, but as a whole UT's defensive line didn't generate the kind of quarterback pressure that Chavis would like.

Last year, UT recorded 24 sacks, its second-lowest total since 1989.

"We need to continue to get better with our pressure. We need to get our sacks back up to where they need to be," Chavis said. "Even though we came on toward the end of last year, last couple years we're not anywhere near where we need to be. You've got to realize, when you start getting sacks, usually sacks are drive stoppers. We've missed that the last couple years."

Tailback Tales: Despite the fact Tennessee's backfield wasn't incredibly productive in Saturday's scrimmage, first-year running backs coach Stan Drayton liked his group's effort.

"There was some great effort out there, some great second effort out there," Drayton said, "and I got some guys that love to play the game."

Senior Arian Foster figures to be the starter, however Drayton wants to reserve judgment on his tailbacks until after spring practice.

"It's kind of unfair to put a stamp on anything right now because you still got guys learning," Drayton said. "You still got plays going in, we're still installing. With all that going on, you've got players out there still playing the game pretty slow because they're out there thinking a whole lot, not trying to make mistakes.

"I haven't seen the full potential of any of these athletes I'm coaching yet. So, when that opportunity comes at the end of spring, I should have a better idea of that."

More Secondary Praise: Chavis wasn't the only one who thought Tennessee's secondary performed well Saturday.

"There's a lot of guys that can really fly around and make plays," UT coach Phillip Fulmer said. "You can just see the difference is night and day. No big balls given up, they're breaking on the football and really playing good right now."

More Shuffling?: Saturday's injury to fullback David Holbert could result in more personnel changes.

UT already moved offensive lineman Cody Pope to tight end after Jeff Cottam suffered a broken leg last week.

"We've got a couple guys coming in, if you want to count on a freshman - and we will - but we'll have to really sit down and evaluate that," Fulmer said. "That leaves you a little short-handed at two spots, fullback and tight end, which is important for what (offensive coordinator Dave) Clawson likes to do."

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Comments » 25

vtvol#210290 writes:

For Chavis to get excited about anything is something.

Silent_Fulmer writes:

at what point this year/season will they learn how to tackle?

MrBamSeydu writes:

Maybe the reason our secondary looks so great is because they're playing against our own offense? Anyone think of that brilliant theory?

FWBVol writes:

Or maybe the reason the secondary looks so good is because you have two All-America type players back there and a couple of others that are All-SEC skill with potential to develop into All-Americas.

BigVolinCarolina writes:

I hope the secondary communication this year is better than the last few years.

Overheard are things such as: "Hey, are you going to cover that guy or will you need my help?" "Do you know how to tackle one-on-one? If so, can you show me?"

Saddle up, secondary. We've got the talent, now it's time to put it all together and be a difference-maker for the team.

newtonrail writes:

What is Brandon Warren's status as far as being eligible this fall? I believe he left Pellissippi State and is enrolled at UT.

Grim1 writes:

"It felt wonderful," Berry said. "Everyone knew what they were doing."

you know...that has been Tennessee's problem for the past 10 years....EVERYONE KNEW WHAT THE OFFENSE WAS DOING!!!!
5 yard pass..1 yard run up the middle..2 yard bubble screen to set up a punt.
C'mon these hicks what real football is about!!!!

and you KNOW Foster is gonna start...I;d be pissed if a coach talked me out of going pro and not let me start.

nicksjuzunk#646117 writes:


Good point.

eb502us#225637 writes:

Our defensive line situation is really pathetic. For a major college program, I find it hard to believe Fulmer can go three straight years without signing one impact defensive lineman. Moving them over from offense for lack of production is getting old!!

pdhuff#552644 writes:

Paragraphs 9 and 10 tell a chilling story.

With the makings of a good offense and could-be spectacular secondary, prospects are there for a decent year. But it is in the trenches, mostly unseen, where games are decided and Chavis admits, rightfully so..............

Lady luck, don't fail us now, we can hope.

Greyback_Vol writes:

"No big balls given up, they're breaking on the football and really playing good right now."

Encouraging words. Over the past few years I think we've all grown tired of seeing the Vols burned on big plays, especially on third and long. Of course, if the D-line improves and can generate some pressure it would really cut down on the big pass plays. Hopefully the strong secondary can help cover up the glaring weakness on the D-line.

jweaver3#395614 writes:

A strong secondary will allow us to blitz of the edges again and be able to bring more than 4. We have been so weak at secondary and d-line that we can't blitz and we haven't had anyone to rush!!!
Hopefully now we can go back to some of Chavis's attack defense and blitz and let the corners lock up man to man!!!
We definetly have the best safties in the country will D Morley and E Berry!!!

waterskier3#226480 writes:

larry slade is a joke..... past performance perdicts future performance... 3 and 15 slade will have them play off 10 yards... they make the catch we miss a tackle and its first down..... we may have the talent but the coach and his thinking is what makes them look so bad... just look at the players we placed in the sec in the nfl... no excuse except coaching for their performance at UT.

arkyvol writes:

ho-hum. chavis is in the high range of mediocrity, but he is close to phil and that's all that matters. how many job offers has he turned down after being assistant head coach for a decade plus?

knoxtenor writes:

Communication? Like, "Hey! Don't let that guy run past you!"? Like, "Wake up! Jump up and grab that pass!"? Like, "Duh... The fumble's right at your feet! Don't try to scoop it up! Fall on it!"? That would be good.

johnlg00 writes:

Our biggest problem with the secondary for the past few years is keeping the same group on the field for more than a game or two. With the injuries and other losses we have had, we have had to play guys with little experience back there. This year, it seems that we have both the numbers AND the experience to see a quantum leap in production in the secondary. As some others have said, an aggressive and productive secondary can help the front seven get more pressure by covering receivers longer, making the quarterback hold the ball longer, looking for someone open. Chavis is a good coach; he just hasn't had world-beating talent for...WAY too long now. It is too bad he isn't a better recruiter, but it is what it is. I think the whole team will be better next season, but it will take some luck to match last year's record, IMHO.

givehim6 writes:

It's so good to know Chavis is happy about our secondary, teams will think twice about trying to go deep on us. But, stoping the run, and sacks is mainly for the line. Yes we can make teams one diminutional, but with so many teams going spread, the QB's are to moible and bad if you have a weak line.

KnoxVol_in_TX writes:

I had no clue that Jeff Cottam broke his leg...that's terrible news!

Sorry buddy...get that rehab working!

IBleedOrange444 writes:

One thing's for sure. Fulmer isn't cutting the D linemen any slack. He's called them to the dance floor in some other articles I've read, stating that they need to man up and get tuff and learn what it takes to play in the SEC. I hope they respond to the challenge, and I think they will be better this year with a lot of guys coming back with experience.

wjackson#226202 writes:

Oh yeah, by the way gator8. Nice show against the big ten in your bowl game. losers.

bigorangebolt writes:

Hey gator8:

What is up with hanging out with your =little gator fans? If you are true gator, you would not be here! What about Percy? It is GREAT to be a TN Volunteer!

philfan writes:

Posted by gatorfan8 on April 1, 2008 at 8:53 p.m. (Suggest removal)

florida will run all over the vols. just like last year.&THE YEAR B4,THE YEAR B4&THE YEAR B4..HA HA G0 GATORS


You need to get your facts straight before you enter this chat room and put out a lot of false information. Tennessee overall has a 16-14-0 record against Florida. Since the year 2000, the record has been a respectable 3-5, with Florida holding the edge. So, wipe that silly ignorant grin off of your face. I mean no disrespect to 99gator, who seems to be a decent fellow.

soddydaisy777 writes:

to you gutterfan8.your day is coming. what ever comes around comes around. urban cowboy will get his rump handed to him, someday. Maybe this fall. gator99 has you beat. I have respect for him. So get off our site. Go Vols!

pdhuff#552644 writes:

I'm kinda worried about UCLA. Looking ahead is good for seeing the distant montains but you've got to get there first.

Might be a bump in the road if you're not prepared. Show us, Clawson, testify!

TnKyFlAlGaScLaAkMi writes:

and you couldn't even win the East? You should fire your coach. You beat us, we beat GA, and GA beat you. Sounds pretty even to me, except, we won the East! Dagnabbit, gator, back in your sewer, zap zap bzzzzzt!

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